Andy Simek | Democrat
ABOVE, GORDON JENKINS, left, lectures Mayor Barnicle during Monday evening’s discussion of the mayor’s extra pay after Trustee Scott Schoonmaker stormed out of the village hall. Scott Schoonmaker, at right, listens as village residents demand that the board come to a decision in favor of giving Mayor Barnicle what he earned.
Mayor's Salary Dispute Boils Over in Village of Monticello
By Andy Simek
MONTICELLO August 24, 2007 Supreme Court Justice Robert Sackett ruled in favor of Monticello Mayor Jim Barnacle in his salary dispute with two village trustees, but little did anyone know at the time that this would be the most painless part of resolving the issue.
The hard part was getting the village board to come to an agreement.
This was accomplished at the board meeting on Monday after months of deliberation, in-house fighting and a lot of bad blood.
Several months ago, village trustees Scott Schoonmaker and Gordon Jenkins filed a suit against the mayor, alleging that he had improperly appropriated funds to himself during a brief term in which he had taken over the vacant village manager’s seat. While Sackett ruled that he had earned the funds, the final resolution still had to come from the warring board.
Village Manager Ray Nargizian started off the evening’s discourse.
“Jim has acknowledged that he hasn’t followed the proper procedure [in collecting the funds], but my job isn’t to judge right or wrong I have to take a business stance on the issue. To further disrupt village business would be wrong. We should deal with this as quickly as possible,” he said.
This, along with the idea for setting future legislation to prevent future scandals, was echoed time and time again.
County Legislator Ron Hiatt gave some advice to the board.
“It’s not my place to tell the board what to do,” he said, “but I can tell you what the county does.”
Hiatt explained that if a county worker is fulfilling a position not assigned to him, their extra pay is withheld for a variable amount of time, usually 60 to 90 days.
After that, the pay is awarded to them for their extra time and payment is also given retroactively for the time they already served.
Hiatt said, “If you do extra work, by God, I think you ought to get paid for it. My biggest advice, though, is to make a plan for the future instead of fighting brother to brother. Principles are more important than personalities.”
The meeting’s public comment session reflected this.
Bob Hosse: “He did the work, he should get the money. If the lawsuit drags on, the taxpayers will have to pay more. Why don’t we just end this tonight?”
Charlie Sabatino: “Let’s get this over with. That’s my money being spent on attorneys. Get your head out of the sand and move forward.”
Bob Kunis: “It’s time we put this thing to bed. The court ruled and we all have common sense, here. Just work it out.”
And Matt Hughes: “The lawyers are the only ones who win and everyone pays. This place has improved a million percent in the last six months. Stop fighting over nickels and dimes.”
While the majority seemed in favor of giving Barnacle what was due to him, there was still some speculation on the part of Carmen Rue.
She said, “I’m glad Scott and Gordon tried to keep Jim in check. He should return every cent of that money. His arrogance caused all these problems.”
This support seemed to rekindle Schoonmaker and Jenkins’ will to keep on fighting for what they call their “moral standards.”
Jenkins said, “I could have filled this room with 100 people who support me, but I didn’t ask anyone to come. I respect the public and their opinion, and I don’t think this is disrupting the village. On principle, I can’t let that money go.”
Schoonmaker agreed: “ I’ve listened to you and I respect every opinion, but people can’t go out and do whatever they want. The bottom line is that this was done without authorization.
“Regardless of Judge Sackett’s decision, the final word is turned back onto us.
“We have checks and balances for a reason. What good is it if we don’t use them?”
It seemed everyone had had their say, but then things turned weird.
The voting began: Schoonmaker no; Jenkins no; Vic Marinello yes; Brian VanDermark yes.
Mayor Barnacle had stayed quiet and composed for the entire meeting, knowing that when the time was right, he could play his trump card.
The man had done his homework, with the help of village attorney Danielle Jose, and found that since board members could vote on their own salaries, he, as a board member, could vote on this issue as well.
Barnicle voted yes, and the floodgates opened.
The room was in an uproar, with many doubting the legality of this action.
Jose reassured the crowd that this was fine, but only after Schoonmaker had stormed out of the room.
Before he left, he said in a fit of anger that, “This isn’t government; this is unadulterated bull.”
He added ominously: “You just opened yourself up to another lawsuit” and added “If you send me a letter of resignation, I’d be more than happy to sign it.”
Later Barnacle said that no such letter will be sent.
“I think it was just the emotion of the moment, and we don’t need any more trouble,” he said.
The vote should have settled the issue once and for all, but Jenkins apparently felt the need to justify his actions.
He said, “I offered to do the job for free, but Jim said I wasn’t qualified. What makes him so qualified? His greed?”
The mayor was not going to keep quiet any longer, especially after his victory.
He explained to the crowd that he felt that the lawsuit was more of a political vendetta than a fight for the taxpayers.
“I offered $1,500 to both Scott and Gordon to settle this out of court. They both turned it down. They wanted to go to court. I don’t see how it wasn’t for political or personal reasons.”
Barnacle said later on that he even offered his own resignation on top of the $1500 in order to avoid “more turmoil” in the village.
The energy in the room was still running on high, and several members of the public called Jenkins out, asking him whether or not this was true.
Jenkins refused to answer directly, and Marinello leapt to his feet, saying, “I am a witness to [the mayor’s offer to the trustees].
“You want to talk about arrogance? These are the same people who voted down an emergency management plan and who wasted taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit,” Marinello added. “These are supposedly the people who care about the village.”
The mayor saw this as an opportunity to call a 10-minute recess to allow everyone to calm down, after which the matter was finally put to rest.